Coronavirus claims two with nearly 70 cases confirmed in Lebanon

Coronavirus claims two with nearly 70 cases confirmed in Lebanon
A woman wears a mask and gloves, as she shops at a supermarket as people begin to stock up on provisions, in Beirut, Lebanon. (AP)
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Updated 12 March 2020

Coronavirus claims two with nearly 70 cases confirmed in Lebanon

Coronavirus claims two with nearly 70 cases confirmed in Lebanon
  • Restaurants closed after supermarket attack, but deliveries to continue
  • MEA arranges flights to transport Saudi citizens to the Kingdom

BEIRUT: Preventative measures in Lebanon were increased to limit the spread of coronavirus on Wednesday, after the country recorded an increase in the number of deaths and infections.

Illegal crossings between Lebanon and Syria in Hermel were closed by the military to prevent the transmission the virus to Lebanese territory “in light of the chaos in the health situation in Syria,” a Lebanese health official told Arab News.

The Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs, and Amusements in Lebanon announced the closure of all facilities, with only delivery services still operating. Casino du Liban has closed, whilst services at mosques and churches have been postponed and sterilization procedures put in place across the country. Arab News has learned that media organizations have asked employees to work from home where possible.

The Syndicate of Dentists in Beirut called on dentists to “limit medical work to urgent and necessary treatments only.” The Federation of Trade Unions of Independent Interests and Public Institutions said members would stop going to work from Thursday to next Sunday.

A source at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Bizri, denied Rafik Hariri International Airport was to close, but he warned: “The country will close as part of a plan to combat the spread of the virus and mitigate gatherings as much as possible. University hospitals are cooperating with us and medical and health teams are ready to deal with cases and they are taking preventive measures to protect themselves.”

Lebanon’s second coronavirus victim, Maroun Karam, 55, died on Wednesday.

According to the minister of health’s office, Karam was “not suffering from health problems and it was found that his immune system was very weak. He did not travel but the infection was transmitted to him from a students who came from abroad.”

The number of recorded patients in Lebanon is now around 70, along with hundreds of people suspected of carrying the virus in quarantine. The Ministry of Health stated that Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut had 61 confirmed cases, with 9 confirmed cases in other university hospitals.

Rafik Hariri University Hospital said it believed: “The incidence of coronavirus will increase by 30 percent every day.” The University Hospital of Our Lady of Aid said that 10 of its employees were infected with the virus as a result of direct contact with an infected patient.

It has emerged, though, that the first case of the virus confirmed in Lebanon (a woman who had recently traveled to Iran) has made a full recovery. At least 37 percent of all cases have come from people who are suspected of having caught the virus abroad.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri took to Twitter to urge people to “close the doors in the face of corona (regardless of which) country it comes from, sisterly or friendly, far or near. The safety of the Lebanese should be above any consideration.”

In a statement, the head of the Lebanese Forces party, Samir Geagea, called for a “serious health emergency and the most appropriate precautionary measures.”

The Saudi Embassy in Lebanon announced that it was “coordinating with Middle East Airlines (MEA) to operate a flight on Saturday morning to King Khalid Airport in Riyadh, and another on Sunday morning to King Abdul Aziz Airport. for Saudi citizens wishing to return to the Kingdom.”

MEA announced that after obtaining special permission from the authorities in Saudi Arabia, it would operate 3 trips to and from Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam, to secure the return of Lebanese and Saudi nationals to their homelands.

The Kingdom had previously suspended all flights to Lebanon in light of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kejian announced during his meeting with President Michel Aoun that his country was ready “to assist Lebanon in combating this epidemic.”

He said that the situation in China “is better than before, as a result of the measures taken by the Chinese authorities to restrict this epidemic and stop its spread.”

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

Updated 22 min 22 sec ago

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

In Iraq, virus revives traumas of Daesh survivors

BAJET KANDALA CAMP, Iraq: For half a decade, Zedan suffered recurring nightmares about militants overrunning his hometown in northern Iraq. The 21-year-old Yazidi was just starting to recover when COVID-19 revived his trauma.
Zedan had lost several relatives when Daesh stormed into Sinjar, the rugged heartland of the Yazidi religious minority in Iraq’s northwest.
The militants killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.
Zedan and the surviving members of his family fled, finding refuge in the Bajet Kandala camp near the Syrian border where they still live today.
“We used to be farmers living a good life. Then IS (Daesh) came,” he said, wringing his hands.
In a pre-fabricated building hosting the camp’s mental health clinic, Zedan shared his traumas with Bayda Othman, a psychologist for international NGO Premiere Urgence. Zedan refers to the violence of 2014 vaguely as “the events.”
The UN says they may constitute something much more serious: Genocide.
“I started having nightmares every night. I would see men in black coming to kill us,” Zedan said, telling Othman that he had attempted suicide several times. He has been seeing her for years, learning how to cope with his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) through breathing exercises that she taught him.
Earlier this year, his nightly panic attacks stopped. Finally, he could sleep again. But only for a few months.
In March, Iraq declared a nationwide lockdown to try to contain the spread of Covid-19. Zedan broke down.
“I fear that my family could catch the virus or give it to me,” he said. “It obsesses me.”
As lockdown dragged on, Zedan’s brother lost his job at a stationery shop on the edge of the camp.
“There’s no more money coming into the family now. Just thinking about it gives me a panic attack,” he said.
“The nightmares returned, and so did my desire to die.”
Out of Iraq’s 40 million citizens, one in four is mentally vulnerable, the World Health Organization says.
But the country is in dire shortage of mental health specialists, with only three per 1 million people.


The Daesh extremists killed Yazidi men, took the boys as child soldiers and forced the women into sexual slavery.

Speaking about trauma or psychological problems is widely considered taboo, and patients who spoke to AFP agreed to do so on the condition that only their first names would be used.
In camps across Iraq, which still host some 200,000 people displaced by violence, the pandemic has pushed many people with psychological problems into remission, Othman said.
“We noticed a resurgence of PTSD cases, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts,” she told AFP.
In October, there were three attempted suicides in Bajet Kandala alone by displaced people, who said their movements outside the camp were restricted by the lockdown, or whose economic situation had deteriorated even further.
A tissue factory who fired people en masse, a potato farm that shut down, a haberdashery in growing debt: Unemployment is a common thread among Othman’s patients.
“It leads to financial problems, but also a loss of self-confidence, which rekindles trauma,” she said.
According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), about a quarter of Iraqis who were employed prior to lockdown have been permanently laid off.
Youth were particularly hard hit: 36 percent of 18-24 years old who had been employed were dismissed, the ILO said.
A new patient in her forties walked toward the clinic, her hair covered in a sky-blue veil.
Once settled in a faux-leather chair, Jamila revealed that she, too, feels destabilized by the pandemic.
The Yazidi survivor lives in a one-room tent with her son and four daughters. But she doesn’t feel at home.
“I have totally abandoned my children. I feel all alone even though they’re always at home. I hit them during my panic attacks — I didn’t know what else to do,” she said.
Othman tried to soothe Jamila, telling her: “Hatred is the result of untreated sadness. We take it out on relatives, especially when we feel devalued — men prey on women, and women on children.”
But the trauma is not just an issue for the displaced, specialists warn.
“With the isolation and lack of access to care, children who have lived a genocide develop difficulties as they become adults,” said Lina Villa, the head of the mental health unit at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northern Iraq.
“We fear suicide rates will go up in the years to come.”